Michael Daciolas-Semon obtained a B.S. in Civil Engineering from UCLA and a M.S. in Civil Engineering, Structural Engineering, Mechanics and Materials from U.C. Berkeley. He worked as a Structural Intern Designer at Structural Focus before joining the firm as a Structural Designer in 2016. Michael has worked on various projects including the renovations of CBRE Masonic Temple, ROW DTLA Building 2, and the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre.
What does Structural Design mean to you?
Structural design means developing innovative, efficient, and safe ways to make possible all the innovative designs architects imagine. Structural engineers design the structures people live, work, and play in so there is an immense responsibility to make sure those structures are safe for the community.
My favorite projects involve the preservation and retrofit of historic structures. It’s fascinating to look at old drawings that can be over 100 years old and see how structural design has evolved. When existing drawings can’t be found, it’s fun to investigate the building. Investigation sometimes includes climbing through rafters and crawling under the floor. I also enjoy the challenge of developing retrofits that work with the existing structure to make it safe while preserving the historic elements. I have worked on numerous historic renovations including CBRE Masonic Temple and the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre. The design teams managed the unique challenges present in historic projects.
My biggest challenge by far has been developing and analyzing a nonlinear model for the seismic retrofit of Hotel Cecil in downtown Los Angeles. Hotel Cecil is not only a non-ductile concrete building but it is also historic. Developing modeling techniques to capture the strength and interaction of the existing structure and new retrofit elements has required a lot of research, trial and error, and analysis. The restraints imposed by the building’s historic status have further complicated our retrofit options and forced us to think outside the box when developing solutions.
I hope I get the opportunity during my career to design a structure that becomes an important city landmark to be preserved for generations to come.
What’s your favorite part about working at Structural Focus?
Everything. The people here are incredibly smart and genuine and they are always available to answer my questions or show me a new way of tackling a problem. I learn something new every day. I work on multiple types of interesting and challenging projects and I’ve been given a lot of responsibility. This experience is allowing me to become a well-rounded structural designer.
The Future of Structural Engineering
I think the future of structural engineering will include at least three components. The development and widespread use of more sustainable materials in larger and taller buildings. The use of 3D printing technology to create intricate architectural elements that double as structural supports. And ultimately, the use of AI to develop more efficient structural shapes and configurations that aren’t possible with our current technology.
What advice would you give young structural engineers?
It’s important to know how to design individual members but knowing how they all fit together and interact is infinitely more important. Thinking about how structural elements will connect to one another is crucial because that will often dictate your designs. Developing this skill can help you better understand behavior, develop more easily constructible designs, and identify potential problems in existing structures.
What would we be surprised to learn about you?
I love all types of board sports. You’ll find me surfing, wakeboarding, and skimboarding in the summer, snowboarding or skiing in the winter, and skateboarding during every season. There’s something about board sports that are both exhilarating and peaceful.